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Stephan Smith of FreshGames

Meet Stephan Smith, President of FreshGames, a developer of web and mobile games.
What is FreshGames?

FreshGames is a computer game publisher and developer. We started in 2003 developing online games, our first being Cubis. FreshGames is basically an IP factory where we create the game ideas and collaborate with developers all over the world to develop our products. Our core strengths are producing the games through the development cycle, coupled with global publishing and marketing across all platforms.
How did you come up with the idea?

I had another company in Columbus that published and distributed CD-ROM packed goods prior to starting FreshGames. It consisted mainly of our IP, game compilations and licensed games. After 6 years of being in retail, I was looking to get into digital distribution and start something new, hence FreshGames.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?

Actually, everyday was a surprise when I started FreshGames. We started developing for a new platform and had to cultivate new relationships & distribution channels. It was like starting over again. I remember trying to get Cubis on MSN.com, trying to explain we have this great game that we couldn’t show them since it was still in development. It actually took 9 months to close the deal with them. It took a lot emails and follow-ups. When I finally meet them at E3 in L.A., Microsoft thanked me for being so persistent.
Where did you find your first employee?

My first employee was referred from a friend and was a great addition at the time. He moved on after a couple of years, but we still are in contact with each other. I have hired from temp agencies and we have running ads on major job boards. Fortunately, our turnover is very low.
What does a typical day in your business look like?

Every day is a little different as I have my hands in a little bit of everything. As the president, I am mainly in charge of the creative direction and business development.  So I am looking at new titles to develop, developing mobile marketing plans, creating promotions, negotiating contracts with developers or new distribution channels globally and devising new ways to monetize our mobile games.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?

The only drawback is that Columbus is not a hotbed of game development talent – yet. But with the democratization of game distribution on Facebook and mobile platforms, anyone from anywhere can release a game. So you don’t really need to be located in San Francisco, Seattle or L.A. The best advantage to being based in Columbus is the cost of living is a lot lower than on the West coast.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?

When starting a business, do it for the passion, not the money. If money is your only focus, you’ll probably have a lesser chance at succeeding. If you are passionate about what you are doing, success always finds a path to your door.
What inspires you?

I get inspired by people who have the odds stacked against them and triumph. If they can do it, I shouldn’t have any excuses!
What founders do you admire and why?

Steve Jobs. He’s the comeback kid who through design and business savvy disrupted and changed the movie, music, mobile phone and game industry.
What’s next for you?

We’ve been lucky to have a few companies interested in acquiring the company based upon our IP brands and our amazing new games in development. This year should be interesting. Mobile is the hot space to be working in.

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